My best employees were the ones who nailed their at-home tests. I had artists, coders, and writers do them.
Why it worked:
(a) I could tell who was passionate about getting the job. The passionate ones were eager to impress and always turned in the assignment early with more bells and whistles than asked for.
(b) I could engage with the candidate over email about the project requirements. This gave me the opportunity to see how we interacted. Were we in sync? Or would we be a disaster working together?
(c) After the project was complete, I could look at what the candidate created to get a glimpse of their skill level. I could never rely on a candidate’s portfolio because I was never sure if what I was seeing was created by a team of people or by someone else entirely. Oftentimes, I would find that a portfolio didn’t match the quality in a candidate’s take home test, and not in a bad way. I found a few diamonds in the rough this way who went on to be leaders in their industries.
(d) I would discuss with the candidate how they built their project and test how they responded to praise and criticism.
This is how I made my hiring decisions. 90% of the time if I saw a red flag and hired the person anyway, it turned out to be a bad decision. The people who passed easily worked on my team for years.